The Radical Eye

Link to the Tate’s website which shows a four minute film of Elton John explaining how he started his collection and why photography has become a big part of his life.

It was amazing to see so many different photographs in one area, and what was interesting  was that all the images were black and white prints. It was also incredible to see the original prints of images which are spread so widely online. Being able to see the size and also print quality (contrast etc.) they were meant to be seen in. The photographs were split into different rooms, portraits were in one and continued onto, experimentations and bodies the third room had documents, then objects, perspectives and abstractions were in the last room.

Some of the photographs were displayed in the same way they were in Elton John’s own apartment. From the short video shown in the exhibition and on the Tate Modern’s website you can see that the walls are completely covered with the photographs. He even displays two of Man Ray’s images on the ceiling of his bed so he can see them in bed.

A couple of my favourite images from the exhibition was Glass Tears by Man Ray, and Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange. I’ve seen many different ‘copies’ of these images so to see them in real life was very interesting. What fascinated me about Migrant Mother was that the focus is on the woman’s shoulder rather than her eyes, whereas online and other forms of the image I’ve seen I’ve never noticed this detail. Glass Tears however was a different experience, apart from the contrast, physically it didn’t look majorly different in the flesh, but it was still interesting to see the size of which it was printed. It was originally photographed for an advertisement so this isn’t the way it was intended to be displayed, but has become an iconic fashion image.

Overall I found the exhibition very inspiring and amazing to see so many diverse images in one space.



(All images taken from the Tate Modern website)

Robert Rauschenberg’s exhibition at the Tate Modern consists of most of his work he created throughout his career in light of his death in 2008. The exhibition in formed in a loose chronological order, and each room is dedicated to different areas he worked in, the first showing his earliest works.

There are eleven rooms altogether within the exhibition packed with his work. Walking through it is staggering to see all the different kinds of media Rauschenberg used in his work such as, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, electronics and digital printing.  He was always trying to move away from the conventional boundaries placed in both art and life which is why he became so well known in American art.

In my own work, I am very systematic and fairly simplistic, so to see work such as Rauschenberg fascinates me to see all the different possibilities in art, and how many different medias can be used. It was also inspiring seeing all the different experimentations he made throughout his career as it shows you don’t have to stick to the same medium your whole life. Exploring different medias can make work more exciting, and perhaps keep a fresh curiosity for it. However, even though Rauschenberg’s work is in different mediums, you can see the connections in his work, moving from one room to the other, it feel coherent and as if the progression is natural, rather than feeling you’re looking at the works of several different people.

My favourite works by Rauschenberg were his sculptural and combines, I like the physicality of the work, how objects come off the canvas and into a space in front of me, something I can walk around and see all aspects. Overall I found looking at his collection of work thought provoking and interesting, to be able to see an artists collection of work in a exhibition is incredible, seeing the different areas captured their creativity.

Lecture 1: Photography Between

The photograph as mobile, in different contexts.

For example; fashion magazine work can be represented in a book or in an exhibition.

William Klein

  • First to take models to the street.
  • Shown in Tate Modern (large prints)
  • Magazine (made for)
  • Abstract photographs for cover of magazine in Tate.
William Klein, feature on fashion in Rome, Vogue (USA), April 15, 1960
William Klein exhibition, Tate Modern, October 2012 – January 2013
William Klein abstract photos for the cover of Domus magazine (1952-64), Tate Modern, October, 2012 – January 2013

Taking images which weren’t meant for the wall to an exhibition.

Rut Blees Luxemburg

  • Mainly exhibition work (large).
  • CD covers (bloc party and the street)
Rut Blees Luxemburg, from the series A Modern Project, 1996 c-type prin on aluminium, 50 inches x 40 inches
Cover of Rut Blees Luxemburg’s first book of her photographs, London: a modern project, 1997

CD covers uses Rut Blees Luxemberg’s images (they paid her to use them, but they weren’t shot for this purpose)


Brassai photo, Minotaure magazine 1936
Brassai photos, Lilliput magazine 1936
  • Same image used in a different way.

Bill Brandt

  • Paired with etchings (Verve magazine)
  • Brandt’s book ‘The English at Home’ image flipped and printed in a different way.
Bill Brandt 1930s photos paired with Gustav Doré etchings of London, Lilliput magazine 1939
Bill Brandt photos paired with Gustav Doré etchings, Verve magazine 1939
Opening spread of Bill Brandt’s book The English at Home, 1936

Every photograph has the potential to exist in many places.

  • The photograph has the right to exist anywhere.

This module is to help us think about our work in different contexts

  • The context of our own work
  • The context of other people’s work
  • Challenges, possibilities and attitudes

Different ways to think about context

  • Genre: landscape, portrait, documentary
  • Institutions: fashion, art, advertisement, news
  • Platform: wall, page and screen

Can overlap, broken down in more detail

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, People in Trouble Laughing Pushed To The Ground, 2011

  • Book, e-book/app, exhibition (Tate Modern)
  • Different ways of viewing the work (more in the e-book than actual book)

Susan Meiselas

  • Carnival Strippers (1979) tape recording and images.
  • Frustrated with book layout (1979) wanted the audio transcribed.
  • Re-do in 2003, more transcripts (came with CD).
  • Struggled with format.

Was asked to join Magnum (profit sharing) have no control how work is shown on the page. Don’t control the context.

  • Encounters with the Dani – didn’t really photograph the Dani
  • Life magazine, photographs by anthropologists
  • Returning the images to the place they were made.

Essential Reading:
Susan Meiselas in conversation with David Campany

Lecture 1: From Analogue to Digital, From Use to Exchange

The philosophy of photography

  • Digital, enhanced, manipulation of images, erasing and inserting.
  • Ontology changing; indexicality under threat.
  • Not as anchored in real world; journalism, consequences. Example, Adnan Hajj, Beirut, 2006, tried to make the smoke look more enhanced.

“Smoke billows from burning buildings destroyed during an overnight Israeli air raid on Beirut’s suburbs. August 5, 2006. Many buildings were flattened during the attack.” (Reuters in 2006)

  • Photography approaching painting, limit, line between photography and painting is blurring; anxiety for photographers.
  • Idealised, photography losing its core.

“Given the proliferation of digital images that look exactly like photographs, photography may even be robbed of its cultural identity as a distinctive medium” (Batchen, 1994, p.47).

  • Anxiety; photography being left behind. What is this new medium? Defining characteristics.
  • Analogue and digital; the difference between the two, share more than separate? Look similar – must be because sensor is different.
  • Not that different, emulsion or light sensitive. Indexicality is still happening.

“Is there so much at stake when the indexical quality of a photographic image is registered by an array of charge coupled devices rather than silver salts or electro magnetic particles?” (Lister, 2007, p.252)

  • Lister: discussion not on different aspects, not technology but social context, how they are operated and used. Ontological shift is taking place.

[T]echnology (in itself) is nothing until and unless it is given cultural and social purpose, gaining definition and meaning in specific historical circumstances (Lister, 2007, p.251).

  • Photography in social and political terms; event of some sort, context tells what it is (Azoulay).
  • Osborne: Social context more important.
  • His theory; what does it mean, does it help?

Osborne’s analogy:

Analogue                     Use Value

—————      =         ——————

Digital                      Exchange Value

Marx theory, somehow similar.

What, if anything, does digitalization tell us about the nature of photography in art?

(Osborne, 2010, p.62)

  • Exhibition, funders, between photography and art world.
Penelope Umbrico, Suns from Flickr, 2006–.

Martine Neddam, Mouchette, 1996– [].

  • Wouldn’t normally call art but comes into art world (non-art).
  • Confining photography and art, widening Osborne’s theory.
  • Wide spread anxiety analogue to digital, something lost. Truth value in digital – citizen journalism.
  • Every has a camera (camera phones) is photojournalism being threatened?
Anonymous ‘Office Worker’, Untitled, 2005 (debris after the bombing of the bus in Tavistock Square, London. Source, BBC)
Adam Stacey, Untitled, 2005 (Mr Stacey disembarking the bombed train between King’s Cross and Russell Square, London. Source, BBC)

This anxiety appears irrational – which is, of course, no more than to acknowledge it as an anxiety: a free-floating anxiousness about the real that has ‘latched on’ to digital photography as a cultural site in which to invest, because of the social importance but current uncertainty about the various documentary functions of photography. The basic source of such anxiety has nothing to do with photography itself (Osborne, 2010, p.64).

  • Truth in image isn’t changing rapidly. Truth aspect has latched onto digital – not to do with photography – something else.
  • What are we anxious about with digital photography?

Osborne’s anxiety is about the real. Marx economic terms, financial anxiety.

In late autumn 2008, the media incessantly repeated the message that the world financial crisis had started to feed through into the ‘real’ economy (ibid.).

Parallel – divorce between reality financial and digital photography.

The fact that there is, in principle, no necessary visible indicator of the referential value of [a digital] image mimics the structure of the commodity, in which there is no necessary relation between use-value and exchange-value (Osborne, 2010, p.65).

Shift away from reality – use value to exchange value.

Chapter 1: Marx

All objects has two values

  • Human want/need use value
  • Anchored to physical qualities (chair and strawberries) and physical reality.

Can also be related to exchange value

  • Chair and larger quantity of strawberries; no longer use value. Negotiation. Commodities, not isolated quantitive value. Expanded to all commodities (car) creating an infinite network.
  • Not value in own right; how much gets you something else? Commodities for commodities.

Marx theory, one commodity which all others are measured. Have to want each other’s commodities – exchanges limites.

“In the direct barter of products, each commodity is directly a means of exchange to its owner, and to all other persons an equivalent, but that only in so far as it has use-value for them. At this stage, therefore, the articles exchanged do not acquire a value-form independent of their own use-value, or of the individual needs of the exchangers.”

(Marx, 2015/1867, p.62 – available at:

  • Everyone wants cattle (money) one commodity above all others, one standard.

Digital photography is easier to exchange for money.

Richard Prince, from New Portraits, 2015.
  • Added his own comment and made it his own.
Andreas Gursky, Chicago Board of Trade II, 1999.
  • Based on digital photography.

Digital photography is most often shared for free, no financial gain.

  • Osbornes analogy which touches us all.
  • Specific file format (Jpeg) (Daniel Parmer)
  • Image traffic online
Anonymous, High Compression Jpeg (sourced from
  • Compromising quality in favour of exchangeability. Displaced alternatives – standard form.
  • Jpeg is the money form of digital files (cattle) bypassed other file formats.
Thomas Ruff, jpeg ny02, 2004.

Jpegs are taken for the purpose of sharing online.

  • Acclimating money to be able to buy stuff later

Commodity – Money – Commodity (selling in order to buy)

Money – Commodity – Money (buying in order to sell)

Money for its own sake.

In a capitalist exchange of the form M–C–M,

“[i]ts leading motive, and the goal that attracts it, is therefore mere exchange-value”

(Marx, 2015/1867, p.106 – available at:

  • Family photos used to be taken in order to look at ourselves and to show other family members and friends.
  • No longer for ourselves (selfie) to be viewed by others in an online community. Trying to increase likes. Something new each time – more and more attention online. Trying to project a certain type of person.

“By posting selfies, people can keep themselves in other people’s minds. In addition, like all photographs that are posted on line, selfies are used to convey a particular impression of oneself. Through the clothes one wears, one’s expression, staging of the physical setting, and the style of the photo, people can convey a particular public image of themselves, presumably one that they think will garner social rewards.”

(Leary, 2013, n.p.)


“We now all behave as brands and the selfie is simply brand advertising. Selfies provide an opportunity to position ourselves (often against our competitors) to gain recognition, support and ultimately interaction from the targeted social circle. This is no different to consumer brand promotion.”

(Nelson-Field, 2013, n.p.)


Exchange value: sells for more than they’re actually worth.

  • Carte de Visite: Seed of exchange culture of social exchanges.
  • Beginning of selfie.

None discussed making of anxiety.

  • Selfie – hopeful.

Artistic practices which show digital anxiety

Big Bang Data, Somerset House, 3rd December 2015–20th March 2016.

Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico, Face to Facebook, 2011.
  • Fake dating website (hacks) Facebook threatened to take them to court. Selfies were in the exhibition; nothing could be done about it once the images were shown.

Lev Manovich, Moritz Stefaner, Dominikus Baur, and Daniel Goddemeyer, selfiecity London, 2015.

  • How Londoners want to present themselves, selfies not intended to be used in this way. How available they are (artistic exchange value) different from original context.

Anxious: losing our privacy

Laura Poitras, The Program, 2012.
  • Harvesting and keeping digital personal data.
Timo Arnall, Internet Machine, 2014.
  • Sea has history of digital traffic.
  • Material facilities, can access if they feel the need.
  • Contradictions of how we look at digital photography, explains what goes on.

Essential Reading:
Osborne, P. (2010). ‘Infinite Exchange: the social ontology of the photographic image’. Philosophy of Photography, 1 (1), pp.59–68.


Is it ethical to photograph suffering?

Within my essay I will be discussing Donna Ferrato’s Living with the Enemy (1991) and Lewis Hine’s Photographs of Child Labour in the New South (1986). Both books deal with different kinds of suffering, Ferrato’s book mainly focusses on abuse within families whereas Lewis Hine deals with the issue of child labour. Each uses their photography to highlight certain these problems which would otherwise go on unnoticed. I will be asking whether it is ethical for these photographers to photograph and publish the sufferings of the people seen in their images using different ethical theories from David Hume and Immanuel Kant to support it.

I’m going to begin by discussing Donna Ferrato’s book Living with the Enemy (1991) was dedicated to exposing the difficulties and the dangers of domestic abuse at a time when police and judges saw it as a family matter and wouldn’t get involved until someone was dead. However, through the book she also documents the change in how police deal with these cases as they began to get training on how to deal with them and notice signs of abuse. She used her camera to document women suffering abuse from their husbands or boyfriends, some more closely than others. At the beginning of the book Ferrato explained why she began to photograph domestic abuse. As it had never been a part of her childhood it wasn’t until she witnessed a man physically abuse his wife whilst on an assignment that she realised love could turn to violence. Ferrato was so shocked by what she had seen that she became determined to help people affected by it “Driven to try to do something about it, I found that a camera was my best weapon. “ (Ferrato, 1991) the only way Ferrato knew how to try and force people to deal with the issue of domestic abuse was to document what happens.

In the introduction to the book Ann Jones tells the reader how Ferrato captured these images and gives more information on what a woman suffering from domestic abuse goes through. She states that Ferrato’s style is very casual “She’ll hang out for days at a hospital or a shelter or a police department or somebody’s house – she loves talking to people – and once in n a while she’ll squeeze off a picture with her funny-looking camera, like any casual observer snapping a souvenir photo on an Instamatic. “ (Jones, 1991, pg. 12) From what the subject matter of the photographs are of this is a very offhand way of describing her style, it takes away the seriousness of the kind of work Ferrato is doing. Jones also discusses the ethical issues of the kind of images Ferrato takes, especially the photographs she takes whilst in someone’s home “I’ve heard a photo editor complain that some of Ferrato’s photographs depict things too private to be photographed. Some things should not be imaged, the argument goes, and “domestic violence” is one of those things.” (Jones, 1991, pg. 12) she also talks about how closely this argument connects to “…the traditional excuse of the law and the church and the state for doing nothing to stop violence against women and children.” (Jones, 1991, pg. 12) although some of Ferratos images do show extremely private moments between husband and wife if we did not see the proof and the violence through them would we still believe how terrible it can be? Subjects such as this are easy to ignore and turn away from if they do not affect you personally. Ferrato found a way to force her audience to face the reality of what is going on behind closed doors.

Ferrato had found obstacles when it came to finding women to interview for the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine when she and reporter Dick Polman were commissioned to do a story on domestic violence in Philadelphia “We found that getting firsthand stories of battered women presented a number of serious difficulties, as well as some ethical problems.” (Ferrato, 1991, pg. 134) Hospital staff felt it was unprofessional for them to ask battered women if a photographer could come talk to them. Ferrato herself felt the same way “That was the hardest part–asking permission to invade the privacy of a patient at what might be one of the worst moments of her life. “ (Ferrato, 1991, pg. 134) it takes a lot for a person to let someone photograph them at their weakest moment, this is not how most people want to be seen by others or to be remembered.

Image A (Ferrato, D. (1991) Living with the Enemy)

One of the stories included in Living with the Enemy wasn’t meant to be about domestic abuse but as Ferrato had dealt with it for so long she began to see the signs. The assignment was for the Japanese Playboy. The assignment was to photograph couples who represented the glamorous life-style of the era (1981). The couple she photographed were Lisa and Garth, during the assignment Ferrato lived with the couple so that she could photograph their everyday lives.  One night Ferrato heard them arguing so took her camera to go and find out what was happening, she took photographs whilst they were arguing and even captured an image of Garth hitting Lisa (sequence show in image A) “When I first saw Garth hit Lisa, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Instinctively, I took a picture. But when he went to hit her again, I grabbed his arm and pleaded with him to stop. “ (Ferrato, 1991, pg. 144) because they were arguing in the bathroom and the walls are mainly mirrors you can see Ferrato in the images. It is this section of the book which raises the most ethical questions, this is one of the situations where she could help first hand rather than just taking pictures of the aftermath. To raise awareness of domestic abuse she stood by and let it happen, only intervening after it became physical.

Although in the images Ferrato appears distant and emotionally detached from the situation, it had a big impact on her. When she got home afterwards she put the roll of film in a draw and didn’t look at it until months after because she wanted to convince herself it never happened “I know now that my denial of the seriousness of what I had witnessed and my effort to overlook it are typical responses to domestic violence.” (Ferrato, 1991, pg. 144) the images which she desperately tried to forget about are in a book for all who buy it or look at in a library to see. Without seeing these images in the context of the book, and not knowing how Ferrato felt about them they would appear very disturbing as you see a woman crouching in the corner, being a voyeur of such a private and morally wrong event. Perhaps viewers of the images who did not know the context would try and convince themselves it wasn’t real, that they are stills from a movie to put a distance between them and the intimacy of photographs, just as Ferrato did after taking them.

The sequence shown in image A shows the lack of intervention Ferrato had during the event of Garth attacking Lisa, but this could be blamed on the medium itself rather than the person behind it “Photography is essentially an act of non-intervention.” (Sontag, 1979, pg. 11) In this situation, for Ferrato or any photographer no matter what situation, one must make the choice of whether they are going to intervene or photograph. It is not possible to do both “The person who intervenes cannot record; the person who is recording cannot intervene.” (Sontag, 1979, pg. 12) I find it fascinating that in image A you can see Ferrato in the act of not taking physical action against the suffering happening in front of her camera. Her duty was aimed more at documenting the situation than helping the woman, however using Kantian theory on ethics she still was doing the right thing. Her intention was to use the photographs of the abuse to raise awareness in order to get people the help they needed. She was not taking them for her own gain, but to help Garth realise what he had done was wrong. However, she did not do this straight away, and did not shown them the images at all as she didn’t feel it was her place, the outcome of Lisa finally getting away and starting again was her own doing, and not because of Ferrato’s images. Using a consequentialist doctrine this would mean the action of taking the images shown in image A was not ethically correct as it did not provide a positive outcome for Lisa or Garth.

The second book I am going to look at is Lewis Hine’s, Lewis Hine: Photographs of Child Labor in the New South (1986) this shows a selected number of photographs from Hines work photographing child labour. These images were used in campaigns for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), they were used to illustrate their books, articles, and pamphlets. In contrast to Ferrato’s images, Hine’s were used to aid a political charity who were actively trying to stop child labor. His images are an example of how photography can be politically effective. His photographs were used as evidence to expose child labor “Their realism provided powerful, irrefutable evidence of the horrors of child labor in all its forms-horrors that the mill owners, the New South boosters, and even the desperately poor parents of the child workers tried to deny. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986, pg. 7) by looking at the photographs Hine hoped that it would make them realise what they were doing was morally wrong, and by showing the public these images too that they would join the NCLC’s cause to put an end to it. This is very similar to what Ferrato wanted her images to do. However, the main difference between Hine and Ferrato’s photographs is that, Ferrato’s subjects were aware that she was taking pictures and gave their permission, whereas, Hine had to sneak around to the sites to take pictures of the children working. As the subject of his photographs were children, his images can seem predatory and exploitive as the children weren’t necessarily aware that they were being treated cruelly.

Image B (Hine, L. (1911) Dunbar, Louisiana)

Image C (Hine, L. (1908) Newberry, South Carolina)

In images B and C, you can see the kind of photographs Hine took of the children working and C is a group photograph of all the child workers. In image B Hine uses the child’s name, and tells a little bit about that one individual in the crowd and what will become of the baby sitting amongst it all. The ethical question to ask here is that, were the children or anyone in the photographs aware of why they were having their picture taken? Or were they just the subject of NCLC’s claim without even knowing it.

Hine was very emotionally involved in the work he did on child labor “He was genuinely concerned about the children he photographed. He met them as individuals; he spoke with them and listened to their stories. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986, pg. 10) he wasn’t just there to take the pictures and move on and forget, he re-visited areas again to see if there was any improvement of their treatment towards the children as the NCLC made progress in helping change the laws on child labor in different states. In Judith Butlers discussion on Susan Sontag regarding the subject Torture and the Ethics of Photography she spoke of how Sontag argued that “If a photograph becomes effective in informing or moving us politically, it is, in her view, only because the image is received within the context of a relevant political consciousness. “ (Butler, 2010, pg. 67) a photograph does not give the viewer any context on its own, it may arouse sympathetic emotion when first viewed but they may not know in what context they’re looking at it in. Especially when thinking of Lewis Hines images, with some of the photographs of the children you would not know that they were being subdued to child labor, in a lot of them the children are smiling and look happy. Butler also states how Sontag thinks we view images of a horrific nature “Photographs cannot produce ethical pathos in us, she remarks; or if they do, it is only momentarily- we see something atrocious and move on at a moments notice.” (Butler, 2010, pg. 69) Are there images that stick in our mind and forever make an impact on us? After finishing Donna Ferrato’s book of Living with the Enemy I felt a very powerful disgust against how the women in the book were treated, but after I am finished I will perhaps forget all about it and move onto the next traumatic subject matter. If this statement is true that we move on quickly, we need to be reminded often of the horrific events which go on around the world more often than ever. The photograph is needed as evidence, if photographers did not capture suffering then people would be oblivious to what is happening. In this sense, it would be ethical to photograph suffering as it would make the world aware, whether they choose to take action or not.

Hine himself believed that “Whether it be a painting or a photograph, the picture is a symbol that brings one immediately into close touch with reality. . . . In fact, it is often more effective than the reality would have been, because, in the picture, the non-essential and conflicting interests have been eliminated. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986, pg. 7) the only voice the photographs Hine took are the viewers, they make you ask yourself if what you are seeing is right or wrong, should these children be working from the age of eight or younger? Some at three years old are already ‘learning the trade’. When Hine spoke to the mill owners and the parents they say that it builds character but most of the children and even their parents can’t read or write their own names. In the photographs, you don’t hear the thoughts of the people who are trying to justify it, or the voice of the NCLC, unless they are being viewed in one of their articles or seen in one of their exhibitions. By showing the reality in his images Hine’s allows the viewer to make their own moral decision, however “The images of working children were meant to shock and anger their viewers, to rouse the public against a system Hine abhorred. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986, pg. 12) the images did have a purpose and were meant to arouse a certain emotion in the viewers. Both photographers were acting on a strong sense of duty to help their fellow human beings, but were also very passionate about the causes they were trying to help.

Firstly, I would argue that both photographers wanted their work to help those who they photographed, their intentions were in the correct place, but does this mean that it is ethical? Immanuel Kant’s thesis on ethics is that the motive of an action was far more important than the action itself and its consequences. He thought that in order to know whether or not someone was acting morally you had to know what their intention was. “ (Warburton, 2012, pg. 42) With Kant’s theory on ethics it wouldn’t be enough to just look at Ferrato’s and Hine’s photographs in their books to know whether what we are seeing is ethical or not, but we would need to know why they took them. Kant also thought that “it was clear that a moral action was one performed out of a sense of duty, rather than simply out of inclination or feeling or the possibility of some kind of gain for the person performing it. “ (Warburton, 2012, pg. 42) this is where the ethicalness on Ferrato and Hine’s books could be questioned, as both would have gained from publishing their work and selling the books. Through wanting to show an audience the sufferings of the people they photographed they have gained money as they would have to sell them to get anything out of it themselves.

In contrast to Kant’s views on ethics, David Hume argues that rather than reason being the main role when we make ethical decisions, it is feelings “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” (Hume, 1994, pg. 119) For Hume, reason only plays a small role in how we make an ethical decision, it is only through emotion that we can tell the difference between right and wrong. When thinking of both Hine and Ferrato’s work with this ethical thesis in mind, it appears that the subject of the images is morally wrong. But by the act of having the emotional capacity to photograph them and show others to raise awareness could be argued to mean that the books are ethically correct.

In a consequentialist point of view the outcome of the work Hine’s did was morally correct, as it helped to bring change to the social issue of child labor in many states. His action of taking photographs of the children who were suffering and being exploited, whether taken with permission or not, it helped the people and it brought awareness to what was happening. With Ferrato’s work the outcome of her book had less of an impact on raising awareness of domestic abuse, which is still a problem today. She may have made a difference in the lives she photographed, but she was mainly just recording the change. Her book wasn’t largely seen, as Hine’s images were, and as a photographer she isn’t widely known. Unlike Hine, her photographs of domestic abuse did not make her name immortal. I think that the issue is that people see domestic abuse as a private matter, and something that shouldn’t be photographed is still seen as controversial today. In fact, both social issues which I have discussed in the work are both probably still happening.

In conclusion, ethically, using Kantian and Hume’s theory the act of photographing suffering is morally correct when it is being done to support such courses as Hine’s and Ferrato’s, even if, especially with Ferrato’s work, the effectiveness of the outcome was seemingly short lived and made a difference on a smaller scale. They were acting on both duty and their passion to help the people in their photographs and spoke to them as individuals rather than being an outsider, taking what they need with no thought of giving anything in return. They were emotionally involved and willing to help put an end to their suffering in the best way they saw fit, to photograph it.


Butler, J. (2010) Frames of war: When is life grievable? New York: Verso Books.

Ferrato , D. (1991) Living with the enemy. New York: Aperture .

Kemp, J.R. and Hine, L.W. (1986) Lewis Hine: Photographs of child labor in the new south. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Singer, P. (ed.) (1994) Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sontag, S. (1979) On photography. London, United Kingdom: Penguin, [1979].

Warburton, N. (2012) Philosophy: The basics. 5th edn. London: Taylor & Francis.